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Unprepared Ep 70 - Utilize Automation to Simplify Work for Your Ecommerce Brand with Sara Du


  • [00:00] - Sponsor: Rewind
  • [00:53] - Intro
  • [01:26] - What is Alloy Automation
  • [02:05] - Alloy vs Zapier and Shopify Flow
  • [04:06] - Integration with platforms & apps 
  • [05:10] - How brands use Alloy Automation
  • [07:20] - Automation aside from business use
  • [08:31] - Alloy Automation customer support
  • [09:49] - Check their out new offer


Key Points

  • Alloy Automation is an Ecommerce automation platform that helps brands eliminate manual work across fulfillments, marketing, & more.
  • Alloy Automation is going to launch its self-serve platform. It will be open to any store and headless commerce platforms to cater to a larger audience.
  • The launch includes a marketplace that has pre-built workflows called recipes so users can see what other people are using on the platform.
  • Alloy Automation is available to a wide variety of Ecommerce which has more coverage than Shopify Flow. They are a specialized platform and like a verticalized version of Zapier. 
  • Brands use Alloy for the automation of data connections, workflows that cover marketing, email, and other categories which any Ecommerce organization can use. 
  • Some of the new work where automation can help include renewal subscription count, adding insert in their next order, and more. 
  • Alloy Automation integrates with the platforms and their ecosystem apps like Shopify, Magento, Woocommerce. 
  • Automation helps you solve manual work and automation that enables you to do something you couldn't before. It can range from a simple task like email up to more complex tasks including if a customer has hit their sixth renewal of a subscription. 


Chase Clymer  

Hi everybody, my name is Chase Clymer, and welcome back to another episode of Unprepared -- an Honest Ecommerce bonus episode where we hear expert advice in 15 minutes or less.

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Chase Clymer  

Hey, everybody, welcome back to one of the final episodes of our Unprepared series here at Honest Commerce. 

Today I'm welcoming to the show a very, very smart CEO. They were in the Y Combinator Class of Winter 20. They're bringing some really really cool stuff that's right up my nerdy alley with automation to space and Ecommerce. Sara, welcome to the show.

Sara Du  

Hey everyone. It's good to be here. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So you guys are doing some really cool next week. Let's just dive in. Let everyone know what's going on. 

Sara Du  


Chase Clymer  

By next week, I guess, next week by me when this comes out. (Laughs)

Sara Du  

Yes. So two days ago, we would have launched our self-serve platform. So for context, we've been operating for about a year and a half. Basically, when we first launched that was October 2019. 

And during that time, we've mostly focused on onboarding customers ourselves, focus a lot on Shopify plus customers and larger retailers. And now we're opening up the platform to anybody.

So any store, you could be someone who's still in the concept phase but you can get started with automation. And that will come with a marketplace that we have of these pre-built workflows called recipes, and so you can see what other people are using on our platform already.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's amazing. So let's just dive into what differentiates you from the Zapier and the Shopify flows of the world?

Sara Du  

Yeah, for sure. So Shopify Flow is available to Shopify Plus customers who are paying, you know, 20k a year or whatnot for that platform. 

We're available to all stores, even, you know, BigCommerce, Magento, a bunch of headless platforms, we support them all. And so with that, that just means we're able to cater to a larger audience.

And then we also have over 100 integrations now and so we do have a lot more coverage than the Flow. 

With Zapier, so Zapier is a super, you know, broad platform. We're very specialized in Ecommerce. So we're like a verticalized version of Zapier. The reason that's important is that there are a lot of these triggers and actions that Zapier hasn't really, you know, bothered to create. 

Just like a super basic example like Shopify back in stock or Shopify, an order is tagged, like maybe that action, you want to lead to like another action and like ShipBob or like Gorgias. 

We have full API endpoint coverage. And what that means is we cover all the possible actions and all the different apps we integrate with so that you can basically, you know, all the possibilities are there to automate versus Zapier. They have just like the basic order placed, create a shipment, etc. 

And they probably don't have some of these more deep Ecommerce integrations, you know, also the newer apps like, like JUnit for loyalty or Upscribe for subscriptions. We're always on top of it with integrations. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. And I mean, Sara's not lying. Literally, Zapier is one of my favorite tools out there. I'm not talking stuff about it is cool. But she hit the nail on the head with the vertical integration of it and it sucks, man, we had to use Zapier for some projects before we are familiar with Sara and the team over at Alloy

I mean, their product is wicked cool. And we've definitely, you know, tested out some kind of recipes ourselves. I'm a nerd, man, I want robots to take over my job. 

So you glanced over something that I really want to highlight here which is, not only do you integrate with the platforms themselves like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce. You also integrate with their ecosystem apps, too.

Sara Du  

Yeah, so I mean, there are, for example, I think Yotpo right? They have a lot of these platform integrations. So we support basically the top, you know, subscriptions, loyalty, 3PL, marketing apps in these different ecosystems. 

So chances are, you'll find it useful. And also when you re-platform say from Shopify to headless, we can be there to make sure that the transition is smooth and you're not losing the links like the critical links between when orders are placed and how you handle loyalty points, returns, etc.

Chase Clymer  

And that's amazing and then, so you know, I'm gonna put myself in the shoes of a store owner and You know, this makes sense to me. I understand the limitations of the other solutions out there. And you know, maybe I'm just not ready for Shopify plus, right? 


Cool. I get I see what your app does in the market. And I see kind of the problems it can help me solve. But well, I guess I don't see the problems that can help me solve. What are some of the things people are using this for? What are some of the recipes? Is there something really cool in the last couple of weeks that someone's used Alloy to help them automate?

Sara Du  

Yeah, so I'd say like with automation, there’s automation that helps you solve a problem you have aka the manual work you're doing like data connections that couldn't otherwise be made between apps that don't have those native integrations. 

And then there are automation that actually enables you to do something you couldn't before. So I'll just go over both categories. Within those, we have workflows that cover marketing, fulfillment, operations support, a lot of different categories. So any person in an Ecomm org could use Alloy. 

So for existing problems, there's a lot of operations tasks that currently involve spreadsheets, email, Slack, and you know, checking when inventory hits a certain quantity. 

So very simple workflows. If inventory hits like x threshold, you might want to email your supplier, send a message to a certain channel in Slack. So you can define all that. 

Other more complex examples would probably be like, if you are currently, you know, you have a customer support rep. You are checking the status of shipments every time someone messages or even someone's, I don't know, loyalty level or subscription status, and you need to message them back. Instead, just get rid of that work for your rep and just automate it.

So that's examples of replacing existing work. With new work, there's a lot of workflows that can essentially let you create rules to define new actions in your store. So for example, you could set up an automation that's like, if a customer has hit their sixth renewal of a subscription.

So in recharged check the renewal count, then add, you know, sample or an insert into their next order. So that's an example of ways automation can help you do stuff that you otherwise probably wouldn't be doing before.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's amazing. Now as the CEO of an automation company, I have automated a bunch of weird things in my life. Is there something that you've done personally, you know, either through, obviously your platform or just something, you know, that comes to mind? That just to there, there's a lot of stuff you can automate that just isn't business stuff.

Sara Du  

Yeah. personal stuff, for sure. I mean, it's hard to say. I used to use IFTTT for some light sensor stuff, which is interesting. 

So interfaces hardware, it's pretty cool. I'd say with my personal life, I don't...I use air table a lot for some like lists that I keep track of, like, I have this like little female angels thing that I've been running and so helping create, like matches between founders and angels through. Just the air table in a form. Super simple.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think I fell in love with automation. Well, I mean, way before this, but it was something that I used to do is...I've got a giant family and everyone's on my family plan, and they never pay their fair share. 

And I automated it through Zapier and through Twilio, texting them reminders, like, give me you know, your part of the phone bill. Well, yeah, I mean, if you can dream the trigger, you can build it with automation. 

So I guess my next question for you about the platform itself would be how's the customer service work? Is it possible to help people? 

How deep do you get with your customers to help them figure out the workflow that they're working on, you know? If they can come to the table with like, the trigger that's going to cause it in the desired action? You know, how deep does the customer support get?

Sara Du  

Yeah, I mean, this depends probably on the plan you're on. So with current customers, we are very hands-on. We help you with, like, you know, thinking of recipes or thinking of workflows will recommend things based on your stack. We do like a tech stack audit, actually. 

And then we can recommend, you know, if you're choosing between SMS providers, we have internal sheets that we can provide you on like feature comparison pricing. So that's actually a perk. 

And then with, you know, the people who will be on our free plan and our recipes plan, the recipes are actually very there, there's a lot of guardrails around them, so less prone to error. 

And then you can actually browse our marketplace and kind of choose off of the menu, right? Like what you want. And so this is our way of scaling up what we've been doing very manually, service-wise.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So by the time this comes out, you guys will be live with your new offer. Where do people go to check it out?

Sara Du  

It'll be on our website. So we'll have a little banner, and then probably on social, you'll see it around.

Chase Clymer  

Oh, Awesome, awesome. And just for the people that are lazy, what is the website?

Sara Du  

Yes, runalloy.com so it's like running a workflow, and alloy like the metal.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah, we'll make sure to link to that stuff in the YouTube video in the show notes. Sara, thank you so much for coming on today. 

Sara Du  

Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.